Wilhelmine Schröder-Devrient (1804-1860)

"This is a formidable woman - my ideal in art!" said Clara Schumann about the most important German singer of the 19th century, Wilhelmine Schröder-Devrient (born 6 December 1804 in Hamburg, died 26 January 1860 in Coburg).

As the daughter of artistic parents, she seemed destined for a career as a singer and actress. Wilhelmine appeared on stage as a child and switched from ballet to theater at the age of 15. She made her acting debut at the Burgtheater in Vienna (playing Aricia in Friedrich von Schiller's Phädra) and then studied voice. In 1822 she took on the title role in Ludwig van Beethoven's Fidelio. Clara Schumann was present at one of Schröder-Devrient's performances in 1839, where she made the remark quoted above. The two women then became lifelong friends.

In 1823, Wilhelmine Schröder went to Dresden and married the actor Carl Devrient the same year, then divorced him in 1828. She stayed with the Dresden Court Opera until 1847, appearing in numerous big roles: Emmeline in Joseph Weigl's Die Schweizer Familie, Euryanthe in Carl Maria von Weber's opera of the same title (RISM ID no. 270002668), Adriano in the premiere of Rienzi by Richard Wagner (RISM ID no. 270000984), and in André-Ernest-Modeste Grétry's Raoul Barbe-Bleue (RISM ID no. 270001250 and 280000180).

During her Dresden period, guest appearances took the singer to Paris (1830, 1832), Berlin (1831), and London (1832). In 1844 she frequently sang lieder by Robert Schumann and Clara Schumann. Robert Schumann dedicated his song cycle Dichterliebe op. 48 to her. After a brief marriage (1847-1848) to the Saxon officer David Oskar von Döring, Wilhelmine von Döring participated in the May Uprising in Dresden in 1849 and was put under arrest for a time. In 1850 she married the landowner Heinrich von Bock in Gotha, who was fourteen years her junior, followed him to Livonia on the Baltic Sea, and returned with him to Germany in 1852. She then divided her time between Berlin and Dresden. 

As a concert singer, Wilhelmine Schröder-Devrient appeared once again on stage in 1856, performing lieder by Franz Schubert, Beethoven, and Felix Mendelssohn Bartholdy. In 1859 she took leave of the stage and died on 26 January 1860 in Coburg.

Image: Madame Schröder as Adriano in Richard Wagner's Rienzi, from Johann Jacob Weber, ed., 1803–1880 - Illustrirte Zeitung no. 7, 12 August 1843, J. J. Weber, Leipzig, 1843. MDZ München (public domain). 


Category: RISM A-Z

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